Enhancing English forIndigenous students
To succeed at school, individuals need to feel a sense of worth about their identities….Children who live in two cultures, one of which is stigmatised as inferior by dominant groups, have great difficulty in resolving the conflict of loyalties which ensues. Their academic progress is placed at risk… Professor J. Smolicz, 1996, In Aboriginal Education and Training and Development Resource Participants’ Handbook, NSW Department of Education & Training, Sydney
Aboriginal pedagogy derives from Aboriginal culture. For Aboriginal people, culture, world view and pedagogy are interrelated. Aboriginal pedagogy
To understand Aboriginal pedagogy, teachers need an understanding of the broad cultural differences of Aboriginal people from mainstream Australian society. Aboriginal pedagogy
Some pedagogical implications of cultural differences For Aboriginal students it is especially important for teachers to develop positive interpersonal relationships.
Global teaching strategies are likely to be more effective for Aboriginal students. Some Aboriginal students will learn better from images, symbols and diagrams than from highly verbal explanations. Commonalities of Aboriginal world views Implications for classroom practice Aboriginal world views are holistic. Aboriginal cultures are interrelated. Symbols and images have always been central to cultural expression and learning.
Teachers need to respect students’ spiritual beliefs and to be careful to avoid devaluing these beliefs. Teachers need to create a supportive learning environment that encourages students to take risks to learn. Commonalities of Aboriginal world views Implications for classroom practice Spiritual beliefs are central and are not debated or questioned. Learning by doing is emphasised: “Do as I do” rather than “Do as I say” so that adult roles are modelled.
Content and culture Making the links
Curriculum Concrete local examples have more meaning for students and at the same time demonstrate the diversity of experiences of Aboriginal people and communities throughout NSW. Board of Studies NSW, 2002, Working with Aboriginal Communities: A guide to community consultation & Protocols, Sydney.)
Culturally inclusive education practices • These practices include: • using locally relevant teaching contexts and examples when delivering any particular subject or topic • involving local Indigenous elders, adults and learning environments
Culturally inclusive education practices • using various teaching styles that cater to the diversity of students’ cultural strengths • teaching Indigenous languages. Commonwealth of Australia, 1999, National Indigenous English Literacy & Numeracy Strategy 2000-2004, Canberra
Viewing: Key points from the syllabus • Widen the experiences of students. • Engage in explicit teaching. • Enable cultural barriers to be explored and exposed. • Promote an appreciation of context. • Enable students to engage with the details of the text.
Composing: Key points from the syllabus • Include visual representations. • Provide opportunities for imaginative and affective expression. • Include a variety of language modes, forms, features and structures.
Composing: Key points from the syllabus • Recognise that texts may be modified to suit different audiences. • Enable the development of language relevant to the study of English. • Enable students to draw upon the imagination to transform ideas into text.
Speaking: Key points from the syllabus • Start with what students bring to the classroom. • Enable students to start small – then branch out. • Value Aboriginal English and Standard English.
Speaking: Key points from the syllabus • Enable students to respond both critically and personally. • Promote the communication of ideas and values.
Listening: Key points from the syllabus • Ensure variety. • Follow up all listening tasks with comprehension. • Ensure that activities are structured. • Be aware of otitis media. Give clear instructions and check for understanding.
Listening: Key points from the syllabus • Encourage students to reflect on their own learning through discussion. • Use “whispers” to learn new words and words in context.
Questioning strategies • Avoid personal questions. • Be explicit about the purpose of the question. • Direct questions to the entire class rather than to individuals. • Use small-group questioning to reduce “shaming”.
Questioning strategies • Allow students time to respond to questions. • Ask broad, open questions such as: Tell me what you know about.. rather than specific, closed questions such as: In what year was..?
Questioning strategies • Use peer questioning to evaluate students’ knowledge.
Strategies for kinaesthetic learners • Allow students to move around the classroom to explore and observe. • Provide opportunities for “learning by doing”. • Use role plays, drama, improvisations and simulation games as a basis for lessons.
Strategies for kinaesthetic learners • Teach verbs by performing the actions. • Assess comprehension by having students retell a story, using movement and facial expressions.
Strategies for concrete learners • Use pictures, charts, diagrams and models to convey information and concepts. • Emphasise “showing” or modelling rather than explaining. • Set assessment tasks which allow students to demonstrate their knowledge visually.
Strategies for concrete learners • Use film and video to demonstrate concepts and introduce new language. • Use unambiguous body language for classroom management.
Strategies for holistic learners • Use studies of concepts or issues which cross all areas of the curriculum. • Integrate reading, writing, spelling and grammar by using stories as the basis for language activities. • Use language and literature to teach reading.
Strategies for holistic learners • Explain the purpose, objective and direction of lessons. • Draw on the student’s own world as a starting point for lessons.
For Aboriginal students For all students • Culturally relevant curriculum is presented in a culturally appropriate manner for Indigenous students. • Indigenous students’ self-concepts and pride in their culture are enhanced. • Cultural respect is fostered. • Understanding of Aboriginal cultures and Aboriginal ways of knowing can be developed.
For Aboriginal students For all students • Learning is enhanced. • Aboriginality is supported and respected in the classroom. • The school culture is more receptive to members of the Aboriginal community. • Teaching strategies based on Aboriginal pedagogy will be beneficial for all students, e.g. cooperative learning, active involvement, community involvement, holistic approaches.
Supporting and enhancing pride in Aboriginality • Speak to students in a positive manner and show warmth and kindness at all times. • Be sensitive to students’ behavioural patterns, e.g. some Aboriginal students may find prolonged eye contact intimidating.
Supporting and enhancing pride in Aboriginality • Praise and encourage students frequently and avoid patronising students. • Be involved with and get to know Aboriginal parents. • Build positive interpersonal relationships with both students and their extended families.
Supporting and enhancing pride in Aboriginality • Be aware of the concept of shame. • Be prepared to try alternative strategies to help students understand concepts. If required, repeat your explanations. • Use humour to inform and to reiterate important points.
Supporting and enhancing pride in Aboriginality • Make children feel important. Ask their opinions on things. • Accept the students’ home language.
Strategies to build Aboriginal students' independence • Allow students to negotiate content, assessment tasks, format of assignments, time required to complete tasks.
Negotiate responsibility for jobs in the classroom. Make students responsible for their own learning by using research assignments, self-paced programs and language programs. Strategies to build Aboriginal students' independence
Organise the classroom furniture with separate areas for group and quiet work, so that students can control their own learning. Remember that effective learning is as important as good behaviour. Strategies to build Aboriginal students' independence
Strategies to foster risk-taking • Create a secure, comfortable, relaxed learning environment. • Allow students to work in small groups. • Introduce a peer tutoring scheme. • Do not insist on direct and immediate answers to questions.
Strategies to foster risk-taking • Introduce student self-assessment to encourage ownership of learning. • Avoid public confrontation and reprimands.
Remember • There may be home circumstances which can make doing homework and assignments difficult. • Be open and honest. • Be aware of special health problems which a student may have, especially hearing difficulties. • Above all, be yourself.
In summary • The school community needs to have a common understanding regarding the importance of adopting new, and well documented approaches to the teaching & learning of Indigenous students. MCEETYA, April 2000, Achieving Educational Equality for Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, discussion paper.
Special thanks • Deirdre Heitmeyer, University of Newcastle, Wollotuka Aboriginal Unit • John Rivers and Dolores Crofts for the accompanying art work